‘Dasvi’ Review: Abhishek Bachchan-led Social Comedy On Education Isn’t As Sharp As It Wants To Be

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Director: Tushar Jalota, Writer: Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair, Sandeep Leyzell
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Yami Gautam, Nimrat Kaur, Manu Rishi Chadha, Chittaranjan Tripathi, Danish Husain
Rating: 2.5

In what seems to be the official era of Bollywood stars making the transition from the big screen to streaming, Abhishek Bachchan is continuing his foray into the digital realm. In spite of the occasional misfire, the actor’s filmography is populated with diverse roles that exemplify his versatility. For his latest film, he returns to the comedy genre and to Netflix roughly two years after the release of ‘Ludo’ – another film that released on the platform. Titled ‘Dasvi’, the social comedy is both a feel-good drama and a petition for middle school education. Directed by Tushar Jalota, the film also casts Nimrat Kaur and Yami Gautam in pivotal roles. With a strong ensemble and a decidedly Indian approach to education, politics, prison and history, the film touches upon some great talking points but shies away from fully realising its own potential.

Dasvi opens with the introduction of Abhishek Bachchan’s Ganga Ram Chaudhary, a pagdi-wearing Chief Minister of the fictional Harit Pradesh. We meet Chaudhary as he attempts a social media fitness challenge. He embodies every stereotype around Indian politicians – he’s entitled, criminally inclined and illiterate. In a comical sequence, we find out that he has multiple open cases against him ranging several sections of the IPC including intimidation and abduction. The news headlines and mounting charges finally land him in jail. Being a local kingpin, he’s welcomed with open arms and given comfortable quarters so he can continue running the government from prison while his wife Bimla Devi Chaudhary (Nimrat Kaur) takes on the mantle of CM in his stead. His plans come to a screeching halt when the prison compound gets a newly appointed superintendent Jyoti Deswal. And she’s a stickler for rules.

In Dasvi, Ganga Ram is brought face-to-face with the harsh realities of prison life, finally serving time for his crimes, but not immediately. After being greeted by a guard who turns out to be a fanboy and led to his private chambers (hell, he even has his own office), he assumes he only needs to wait for his bail to release him from the temporary hindrance. With Jyoti Deswal arriving upon the scene, his scheme is thwarted and he goes from a local celebrity to a regular inmate. As a means to escape the prescribed manual labour, Ganga Ram gets the brilliant idea of joining the group of men heading to the library and preparing for their 10th-grade exams. Any Indian will tell you just how pivotal it is to give the board exams in this country. Not having graduated middle school, our protagonist feels the inherent shame that follows. And so he sets out to study Science, Maths, Hindi and History to finally graduate middle school from prison. Based loosely on true events, the film’s premise is packed with promise for an inventive satire. Dasvi turns the concept into a lighthearted comedy that perhaps relies a little too much on the charms of its cast.

Abhishek Bachchan plays a politician-turned-student in this endearing yet basic film about the importance of education.

Abhishek Bachchan with some 70 films in a career spanning decades might not be Bollywood’s finest but he is reliable, especially in the comedy genre. After cult hits like Dhoom, Bunty Aur Babli and Bluffmaster among others, it’s safe to say that he can headline alright. Dasvi sees him play an initially unlikeable character made endearing as the film progresses. Jr. Bachchan has the charms to pull it off. His performance is steady at best and he makes the film watchable for the most part. But any headway he makes is marred by an undercooked script. Written by Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair, and Sandeep Leyzell, the film doesn’t rise to meet its more interesting elements. Some parts are truly commendable. Take, for example, Ganga Ram’s first experience of studying history – he immediately sees himself as a revolutionary walking alongside the greatest freedom fighters, dreaming of being a hero for the people. Of course, his reality stands in stark contrast to his noble academic pursuits. Another delightful aspect of the film is just how many throwaway references it packs in. We find out that Ganga Ram’s fellow inmates are skilled at math and break down the most challenging geometrical equation. This spotlights just how much emphasis is given to education in India. In a country where everyone is a degree-holder but a majority are unemployed, these truths ring very close to home. If only the film had stayed the course and given us more of that in the first half which was rather weak in comparison with the second, Dasvi could’ve been a lot more than just a simplistic repackaged message.

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Bachchan isn’t the only actor worthy of the credit here. Let’s talk about just how amazing Nimrat Kaur is. The Lunchbox actress plays a woman who starts out as a coy housewife unable to speak up in front of her husband. Once she’s sworn in as CM, she discovers ambition and turns out to be a natural at politics. The script does Kaur justice by giving her a funny yet strong character. Bimla Devi might be old fashioned but she’s quick to choose a flourishing political career over her jailbird husband. Meanwhile, Yami Gautam’s Jyoti Deswal maintains a balance between being the rule enforcing prison boss who can easily switch to playing the gentle-hearted guide. Together they deliver effortless performances. However, the film’s over reliance on Bachchan is evident and sadly, he isn’t given enough material to steer this social comedy is more ambitious directions.

Verdict

Dasvi feels like a familiar watch for anyone who has been keeping up with Bollywood’s social comedy genre. It has the star cast, its heart in the right place and even manages to throw in some genuinely hilarious moments. It makes watching it all boil down to an urgent yet basic message is quite the letdown.

Dasvi premieres on April 7 on Netflix and JioCinema.

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Cover image: Netflix



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